Sowing Parsnips


Honestly, I haven’t had that much success with Parsnips in the past. I have either sown them too early (no germination) or too late (very small Parsnips). Or slugs have eaten them, or they have just plain failed. This year I’m trying again and hoping that now my garden is literally on my doorstep that I can tend them sufficiently well to produce something edible.

I’ve read several tips on how to grow them successfully. The first is to use fresh seed. Apparently, Parsnip seed is notoriously flaky when it comes to germination and if the seed isn’t fresh then you run the risk of very patchy growth after weeks of waiting. So, I bought some seed of the Tender & True variety and cracked it open.

The second piece of advice I found was to sow the seed in a hole made with a dibber and filled with seed compost. It seems that Parsnips (like Carrots) have a hard time breaking through tough soil and so like to be sown in a bed of nice soft compost.

The third piece of advice is to wait, wait, go and make a cup of tea and wait some more. Parsnips are not exactly early starters so expect to wait some weeks before you even see a glimmer of germination. Some people even say you can sow a catch crop (a faster growing crop) of radish along side in the time it will take the Parsnips to show.

Just to be on the safe side I have done all of the above. Here’s hoping we will be enjoying some roasted Parsnip later in the year.

13 Comments on “Sowing Parsnips

  1. Fingers crossed – I have sown two rows at different times on the allotment without a glimmer of germination and have resorted to putting them in loo rolls at home. 3 weeks in and not a sausage yet. Sigh. My favourite vegetable, too.

  2. I’m sure I heard on GQT the other week that you should put the seed in the fridge for a week prior to planting. Apparently the seeds need the low temperature to spur them on to germinate. Ever tried that one?

  3. Hi Wills – no I haven’t tried that one. But if this batch fails then I’ll be on that one next! Thanks for the tip.

  4. Place them on moist tissue paper in the airing cupboard and wait about a week, sometimes two. When they start to shoot, pop them out into the ground. Never fails.

  5. I’ve tried all of the above and still find parsnips tempramental! I just insist on digging up my own parsnips every year on Christmas Day! Last year they were pathetic and small. The previous year, with the same treatment they were fantastic. Still a bit cold here yet to risk planting them, I think germinating them in a plastic bag on wet paper towel in the airing cupboard is my best bet this year!

  6. Some wonderful tips here, thank you. I have very little luck with carrots so I’ll not hold my breath but will give it a go!

  7. I’d heard about the dibber and seed compost one – and forgot to do it this year. Still no sign of those I’ve already sown, although the fridge process may have been inadvertently implemented courtesy of recent weather here. However, there’s still time for another sowing, so I’m going to try and fit in an extra row somewhere else – using the dibber and seed compost this time. Good luck everyone!

  8. Just popped back to say I *think* (don’t want to jinx them ;) ) I have some germination from the first row I put in, 7 weeks ago. Which gives me hope for the rest (and a good thing too as I have no airing cupboard).

  9. I always have luck with the damp/wet kitchen paper method. I lay a piece of kitchen paper flat and put water on it to make it damp. Put some parnip seeds on it, fold it over to cover the seeds, place in a clear plastic bag or sandwich of cling film and leave it until the seeds germinate which is a few days. I then tenderly put these seeds in individual plug pots and wait until the first true leaf comes through, then put them in the final position which is made with a ‘crow bar’ hole filled with soft soil. It works for me every time HTH’s.

  10. I did mine last year(first season with them!) in a plastic bag with moist compost and put them in the airing cupboard. They took at least three weeks to germinate, then I popped them into little holes outside. I got about 10 huge parsnips, which was enough because it’s only me that eats them in our house!

  11. I have had this year a really good crop of parsnips and the root is of some 50cm ln length and the crown around 4.5 inches accross.
    I live in Portugal (North) and have very acid soil as we are on granite, however it is very light and easily cultivated. throughout the growing season I use a liquid fertilizer the same as on the vines and this makes them grow very strongly and i normally get waist high foliage and sometimes the same root length. yes I agree that the germination is very slow and at times patchy nonetheless this helps when it comes to thinning out seedlings after germination for the final result.
    for cultivation prior to sowing seeds really dig it deep a good 9 inches if not more and then rake the top surface to produce a fine tilth, then sow the seeds at 2 to three inch intervals in a drill about 1/4 in ch depth and finally using the back of the rake gently tamp the row of seeds to cover them up and wait, this can be as lkong as three weeks and this is portugal in January/February even in may it can take as long so be patient.

    one last point is to apply a good fertilizer prior to sowing ( must contain all trace elements Iron Magnesium etc)